COMING UP: More news and interviews from the round-table discussions and side events
[NEW YORK, 10 December 2007] - More than 85 children, speaking over 20 languages and representing 63 countries, gathered at the Millennium Hotel in New York, United States, at the World Fit for Children +5 Children's Forum.
The meeting is officially called the Commemorative High Level Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Follow-Up to the Outcome of the Special Session on Children, and is taking place from 11 to 12 December.
At the Forum, key issues related to the two thematic interactive round-tables are being discussed, and participating children will choose one boy and one girl to speak at the closing session of the plenary (what does this mean?). In order to generate an interactive discussion, children are also preparing their perspectives and issues to be raised at the round-tables.
The themes to be discussed at the round-tables are 'Promoting healthy lives and combatting HIV and AIDS', and 'Providing universal quality education as key to achieving the MDGs and as the first line of protection against abuse, exploitation and violence against children'.
Richard, 16, is a member of a child rights advocacy organisation in Ghana. He was selected by his government to attend the event. He said: “It's very important that children play their part here.
“In order for the problems to be solved, children have to be part of the process as they are the ones who will be affected.
“Children must be listened to if it is to be a true democratic process, and it is important we are listened rather than just invited to take part.”
Sergi, 18, from Albania, believes the Children's Forum is key to adopting a coordinated approach.
He said: “The Forum is important so that everyone can know and understand the problems that children face.
“It is important that we are working together on the same issues, and that our approach is coordinated. One of the obstacles we face is to make sure that we are listened to, and that the event is not just symbolic, but I believe there is the opportunity to do that here and I hope the people that matter will listen.
“The UN event is an amazing opportunity, so we must hope it will be fulfilled.”
Children at the Forum split into several working groups and committees, focusing on different aspects of the event. Issues for discussion included Promoting Healthy Lives, Promoting Quality Education, Protections Against Abuse, Exploitation and Violence, and Combatting HIV and AIDS.
Desired outcomes from the Forum
Children at the event agreed on a number of outcomes they hope to achieve from the discussions:
Our opinions and voices are heard but also acted on
Countries in partnership with youth commit to using all their resources to create meaningful and concrete change
We should be willing to share experiences and accept ideas from others
With the involvement of children we can benefit the society – our society
Everybody including children should work together to make a better world for children
The best world for children is one without violence where health is assured
The rights of children must be recognised and protected
Children must be aware of their rights in order to defend them
United we can make a change
Friendship does not have barriers
Jiayang, 17, is from China.
The most important thing about the event is that children's voices are heard; in fact not just that voices are heard, but that action is also taken.
We have a saying in China - what people say must be what people do. Problems happen when our voices are not heard when people are making decision which affect us.
I started to be concerned about children's rights two years ago when I saw an item about African children on the news. After that, I sought out information on how I could become involved in child rights.
In China we say that teachers do not just teach knowledge, they teach you how to be as well.
I feel there is a particular problem with migrant children in China. The economy has gone crazy and so lots of migrant workers are needed, especially in the city. About ten years ago, no one cared about these children, but people are more and more beginning to take notice. Since 2001, the State Council has announced lots of things to be done.
Kateryna, 17, is from the Ukraine
Our voices have to mean that the governments make sure this is a world fit for children.
Although we can have the ideas, it is the politicians who have the power to make sure there is action. It is easy for adults to forget about children's points of view.
It is vital that children are seen not just as children, but as people who are just as important as adults.
I started being interested in child rights when I was just ten years old when I saw the problems some children faced starting school. There was one pupil in my class who the teacher did not like. I just thought it was really unfair, so me and some others got together and went to speak to the teacher to tell him not to discriminate.
We have particular problems with village schools in the Ukraine. People are moving to the cities, so that in some villages there is just one child attending the school. It means that these schools are badly equipped and these children are not getting a proper education.
We also have problems with street children in particular. The Government also needs to do more to help orphans, who are often forgotten about, and to make sure children are not subject to discrimination.
Sergi, 18, is from Albania.
The Forum is important so that everyone can know and understand the problems that children face. It's also great for getting to know other people so that we can keep in contact and work together in the future.
It is important that we are working together on the same issues, and that our approach is coordinated.
One of the obstacles we face is to make sure that we are listened to, and that the event is not just symbolic, but I believe there is the opportunity to do that here and I hope the people that matter will listen.The UN event is an amazing opportunity, so we must hope it will be fulfilled.
My government needs to give more importance to child rights – they are preoccupied with economic problems but they must realise children's rights can be part of the solution.
For me, the issue I most identify with is health, because if you don't have that you don't have anything. My government needs to provide free health insurance.
I am probably one of the oldest here, but I won't stop trying to defend children's rights just because I have reached a certain birthday. It is important that everyone is involved and concerned with child rights.
Eleanor, 19, is a UNICEF volunteer and Participation Consultant with the National Youth Council, UK.
It is such a massive event, so there is so much to organise and we are very busy!
One of the biggest challenges is that although we can control a little what happens at the Forum, we cannot really control what happens at the UN. So it is sometimes difficult when the participants are saying what they want to happen when it can be out of our hands.
The language barrier is also something to overcome, but I think it is working very well at the moment.
If you look at the progress since 2002, there is a lot more children's participation happening. What we need to make sure is that this doesn't just happen in pockets, and is integrated into decision-making. Participation needs to be brought into areas where it isn't happening.
One of the biggest problems is that adults think too much like adults. For example, in the town hall meeting, one of the adults said to one of the children: 'It's great that you are participating but you should also realise that this is the real world'. That is missing the point, as children are the real world and their voices need to be listened to.
- The outcome document ‘A World Fit for Children’
Draft programme for the whole event
Read the list of side events
- CRIN’s ‘Reader on National Plans of Action for Children’
- ‘Follow-up report to the special session of the General Assembly on children: report of the Secretary-General’
- UNICEF page ‘Follow-up to the UN Special Session on Children’
- UNICEF's page on the ‘UN Special Session on Children’